Category: CIS News

Emerging Media Entrepreneur Headlines 10th Annual C&IS Diversity Symposium

Justin Ching, Keynote Speaker at the 2019 Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium
Justin Ching, Keynote Speaker at the 2019 Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS), in partnership with the Alabama Program in Sports Communication (APSC), welcomes Justin Ching, one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” Millennials Changing Media to campus for the 10th Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium February 28-March 1.

Ching, 29, is the founder of j-school, a production company dedicated to empowering underrepresented communities to tell their own stories in their own voices.  As part of his keynote presentation, Ching will screen some of his projects such as the sports shows “Ritual,” “@TheBuzzer” and “Deportes @TheBuzzer.”

“He’s definitely the youngest keynote presenter we’ve had in the 10-year-old history of the symposium,” said George Daniels, assistant dean for administration. “We’re excited to have him on campus to inspire our students to see their potential to make an impact very early in their careers.”

In addition to his keynote presentation,  Ching will participate in a special keynote panel discussion on “Constructing the Narrative of the Activist Athlete,” along with Rashad Johnson, former NFL Player and UA alumnus and others. The panel will be moderated by Caryl Cooper, who originally launched the Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium in 2010.

“One of the symposium’s objectives was to create an intellectual environment that appreciates, advances and supports scholarly research and creative activities that focus on the communication of stories, experiences and issues that impact diverse populations,” said Cooper. “As senior faculty, I believed that it’s our duty to visit with our new colleagues, find out their research interests and goals, and demonstrate how diversity intersects with teaching and research productivity.”

Cooper’s panel on the activist athlete exemplifies the sports-focus of this year’s event, which is being co-sponsored with the APSC. Other sports-related research projects are among the more than 30 diversity-related research paper and poster presentations slated to be made during the symposium that feature both undergraduate and graduate students and faculty.

Over the years, the symposium has continued to attract presenters from other universities.  This year, scholars from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Mississippi will appear on the program.

The symposium begins at 8 a.m. on Feb. 28 and continues through 4:45 p.m. Lunch will be provided. Attendee registration info to follow.

Contact: Dr. George Daniels, gdaniels@ua.edu

C&IS Faculty and Student Team Produces Nationally Recognized Music Video

Led by Nick Corrao, a team of University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) students produced a music video for singer-songwriter Tim Higgins and his song “Blight.”

Corrao, who served as a producer for the video, and Higgins have been friends for years, so when Higgins wanted to create a music video to promote his new album, he approached Corrao. However, Corrao wasn’t sure his schedule would allow for him to fully commit to the production as much as was necessary, so he turned to one of his students, Reagan Wells, a senior journalism and creative media student from Galesburg, Illinois. For Wells, the project was an example of great timing.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take on, artistically, everything that the project was going to demand,” Corrao said. “I like to get my students involved in whatever I’m doing, whenever possible. Reagan and I had worked together earlier in the summer, and we had a really good working relationship, and I knew that he would be up to the task.”

“It was funny to me, because we went out to eat one night, and I said, ‘I’d like to do a music video,’” said Wells. “He said, ‘Well, I’ve got one for you.’”

The opportunity presented a new challenge to Wells, who had never directed a film before, but wanted to add portfolio experience before graduating.

One Day in Greensboro

“Blight” is an ode to Higgins’ affinity for antiquated things, as well as a lament for the destruction of those same things. The video captures that feeling and was mostly shot in an antebellum mansion owned by a friend of Higgins.

Filmed in various locations around Greensboro, Alabama, south of Tuscaloosa, Wells said he wanted to capture Higgins’ vision for the video more than anything else. While the shooting only took one day, brainstorming began two months before the cameras ever were rolling.

“If it looks cool, it will probably work. This was not just a directing thing, this was coming up with a concept. The sky was the limit, but you just didn’t know where to start,” Wells said. “We had three very talented shooters and an assistant director. We had 40 gigabytes of footage, and it was just like, ‘What do you do with this, where do you start?’”

Like a Rolling Stone

“I wanted to give Reagan the freedom to sort of explore creatively and give feedback on the cut,” Corrao added. “This is what we want to do in the (JCM Media Production) program. We want our students leaving here with work that has received some kind of professional recognition and exposure.”

In November, the video was highlighted in “Rolling Stone” magazine as one of its 10 Best Country and Americana Songs of the Week alongside country and Americana mainstays such as Jerrod Niemann and The Revivalists.

Wells said he could not have made this project work without his team, made up of fellow University of Alabama students: Alex Cherry as an assistant director and Jeb Brackner and Rhianna Israni behind the cameras. He also cited the importance of “trusting all ideas” in the process and knowing how to delegate duties.

“It feels so good to walk away with those videos in hand, and I can say to potential employers, ‘I was here doing work, I wasn’t just sitting in a classroom for four years,’” Wells said. “It’s this thing where I can say, ‘Here’s this, here’s what Reagan can do.’”

The music video for “Blight” can be viewed below.

Retired Marine Lt. Colonel Greg Ballard to Speak at UA on Alternative Energy

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Retired Marine Lt. Colonel and former Mayor of Indianapolis Greg Ballard will be speaking to students at The University of Alabama on February 18.

In conjunction with a special topics class in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) Department of Communication Studies, COM 295: The Forum, Ballard will be speaking to students about national security and the need to invest in alternative energy. This debate is the subject of his new book, “Less Oil or More Caskets: The National Security Argument for Moving Away from Oil.”

“We are thrilled to have Lt. Colonel Ballard speak to our students,” said Dr. Darrin Griffin, C&IS assistant professor and instructor for COM 295. “In The Forum, we focus on debate and communication, and this is a great opportunity for the students to learn.”

“Today, when we send our young men and women off to war, we pat them on the back and thank them for their service,” said Ballard about his book and presentation. “We throw parades and homecomings upon their successful return. We sadly salute the caskets as they go by. Then we drive down to the neighborhood gas station and fill up – and nobody makes the connection; nobody sees the irony.”

The presentation is open to the public and will begin at 2 p.m. in Doster Hall Room 104. Ballard’s visit is sponsored by the Department of Communication Studies, a part of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. For more information, please contact Dr. Darrin Griffin at djgriffin1@ua.edu.

Gloris Trujillo, APR Graduate Student, Wins Berger Award for Leadership

Trujillo accepts award at Half Shell Oyster House
Trujillo accepts award at Half Shell Oyster House

Gloris Trujillo, a first-year graduate student at The University of Alabama, was named the recipient of the 2019 Bruce K. Berger Graduate Student Leadership Award on Saturday, Feb. 9.

The Department of Advertising and Public Relations at The University of Alabama established this award in 2013 to honor a graduate student in the advertising and public relations Master of Arts program for exemplary leadership. The students in the M.A. program voted in December to select the student who best demonstrated passion for work and the public relations profession, exemplified a strong ethical orientation and employed an inclusive style of leadership.

“Being a part of a group of future leaders, I feel really honored that my peers chose me as the person they think exemplifies leadership,” said Trujillo. “It feels really good that people who are with me almost every day saw those leadership skills in me.”

Trujillo is in her first year of the two-year APR master’s program at UA and is a Fulbright recipient from Panama City, Panama. She graduated cum laude from Universidad Católica Santa María la Antigua in 2015 and currently serves as the co-vice president of diversity and inclusion in UA’s Public Relations Student Society of America.

Trujillo anticipates completing her degree in the spring of 2020 and would like to work in the research department of an agency and continue her research into diversity and inclusion in public relations.

This award is named after professor emeritus Dr. Bruce Berger, who served as the first director for the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, and most recently served as the research director for the Center. Berger’s research focuses on public relations leadership and garners acclaim both in the profession and academia.

“Dr. Berger is not only an inspiration for us, but for everyone,” said Trujillo. “I want to emulate what he has done in the public relations industry with his experience and research.”

Dr. Joseph Phelps, chair of the department of advertising and public relations, presented the award during the Plank Center Board of Advisors dinner at Half Shell Oyster House. Since its inception, the presentation of the award has been tied to the Plank Center and its focus on producing servant leaders in the field of public relations.

About the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations: The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations is the leading international resource for practitioners, educators and students who are passionate about advancing their careers and the public relations profession. Led by a national advisory board of leading educators and practitioners, the Center develops and recognizes outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society. Founded in 2005, the Center is named after Betsy Plank, the first lady of PR. Betsy’s legacy and vision continues on in the Center’s programs and initiatives to advance the profession and public relations education. For more information, please visit www.plankcenter.ua.edu.

Plank Center Hosts 2019 Professional Roundtable

Participants of the 2019 Professionals Roundtable

Students at The University of Alabama representing Capstone Agency, Platform Magazine and the advertising and public relations master’s program had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with a dozen members of the Plank Board of Advisors at this year’s Professional Roundtable event on Saturday, Feb. 9.

This annual event, hosted by the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, is organized by advertising and public relations students and designed to offer a unique opportunity for students to take part in conversations related to current trends and issues in the field of public relations with some of the world’s leading communicators and PR practitioners.

Prior to the day of the event, student organizers polled attendees to determine the topic of conversation for three breakout sessions, which kicked off this year’s roundtable.

Each breakout session consisted of a student-led discussion centered on one of three topics: transparency versus protection; technological developments and implementations; and diversity and inclusion in public relations.

“We chose to include breakout sessions in this year’s roundtable because we feel they lead to truly in-depth discussions,” said Derek Hooper, an APR graduate student and event organizer. “These conversations go beyond small talk and allow students to dive deep and pick the brains of members of our robust, ever-expanding professional network.”

After wrapping up the breakout sessions, leaders from each group shared some of the key takeaways and insights from their respective discussions:

  • TRANSPARENCY
    • Transparency has always mattered, but now conditions are different because of how quickly information spreads.
    • PR practitioners should seek facts and identify the “right” thing to do.
    • PR practitioners should look at organizational culture and values, and ask whether they’re upheld.
  • TECHNOLOGY
    • Social media acts as an integral listening tool, allowing us to better understand our audiences are and what they’re saying.
    • Social media influencers are quickly becoming one of the most effective channels for brands to communicate certain messages.
    • Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we do our jobs, and can help us predict what types of messaging will be most effective.
    • Understanding how to best reach audiences is the key to utilizing most emerging technologies.
  • DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
    • PR is largely not on the radar for students in diverse schools and communities, and many are not aware of opportunities in this field.
    • Diversity is lacking in upper-level leadership and middle management.
    • Diversity does not equal inclusion, so intentional behavior is necessary to fostering a culture of inclusivity.

Next, roundtable attendees participated in a rapid-fire Q&A session focused on preparing for entry-level jobs in public relations. Students’ questions ranged from the necessity for narrowly-tailored cover letters and curating your LinkedIn profile to finding a place to work where you feel connected and expressing why you’re a good fit.

Each member of the Plank Board was able to share their wisdom and experience with the group, but the clear emphasis of the event was on the betterment of students, who made the event a success.

“All of the awards and artifacts related to the Plank Center and Betsy Plank used to be contained in one display case,” said Board of Advisors Chair Keith Burton. “But now, the Plank Center has such an enormous impact on the University, and it’s so encouraging to see the students here on a Saturday morning, honoring Betsy’s legacy and contributing so much to the profession.”

About the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations: The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations is the leading international resource for practitioners, educators and students who are passionate about advancing their careers and the public relations profession. Led by a national advisory board of leading educators and practitioners, the Center develops and recognizes outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society. Founded in 2005, the Center is named after Betsy Plank, the first lady of PR. Betsy’s legacy and vision continues on in the Center’s programs and initiatives to advance the profession and public relations education. For more information, please visit www.plankcenter.ua.edu.

Capstone Agency Delivers 2,208 Hours in Pro Bono Work for 15 Local Nonprofits

Capstone students gather for the third annual CreateAthon

Capstone Agency, The University of Alabama’s nationally affiliated, student-run communications firm, held its third annual CreateAthon Friday, Feb. 1. The 24-hour integrated communications marathon amounted to 2,208 hours in donated work for 15 Tuscaloosa-area nonprofits.

As a national 501(c)(3) organization, CreateAthon unites professional and student-run communications teams across the nation to serve in 24-hour marketing marathons. To date, CreateAthon has delivered $24 million in pro bono services for more than 1,500 organizations, with a mission to deliver $100 million by 2020.

Each nonprofit came to the agency with a communications problem; whether it be a lack of awareness or an inconsistent visual identity, and over 90 students worked through the night to deliver solutions to these deserving organizations.

Smile-A-Mile development director, Savannah DeRieux, was grateful for the content and strategy pieces Capstone Agency developed for the organization.

“They took our need and the broad scope of what we are doing with our organization and put it into a campaign that we are going to use,” said DeRieux.

As for Capstone Agency’s Pro Bono Director, Olivia Lake, “it is hard to find the words to describe what participating in CreateAthon is like,” said Lake. “Serving as pro bono director was a humbling experience for me. Being behind the scenes and piecing together everything to create the big picture allowed me to be continuously reminded of the larger, societal need for what we are doing.”

The 15 nonprofits selected include: Alabama REACH; Arts n’ Autism; Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama; Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama; Camp Fire Alabama; Caring Days Adult Day Care; Dialysis Clinic Inc.; Freshwater Land Trust; Schoolyard Roots; Smile-A-Mile; Sweetwater Outreach; The University of Alabama Collaborative Arts Initiative; Tuscaloosa SAFE Center; United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama; YMCA of Tuscaloosa.

Capstone Agency is a nationally affiliated, student-run, integrated communications firm comprised of communication students at UA. The agency has been a student organization in the College of Communication and Information Sciences since 2008.

 

Research and Creative Activity: Dr. Elliot Panek

Dr. Elliot Panek

In some sense, everyone is part of a community, but, in an era when millions of people interact with one another online, how do we define “community?” Why do most online communities fail while others flourish? These are some of the questions C&IS professor of journalism and creative media, Dr. Elliot Panek, is asking, and he’s analyzed millions of comments on Reddit to help find the answers.

Reddit is a popular website that hosts large-group discussions on thousands of different topics, ranging from politics to relationship advice. The team examined six years of data within 30 different popular Reddit groups or “sub-reddits,” analyzing the influence of group size and the passage of time on two characteristics of online communities: the dispersion of participation in group discussion and the active member turnover from month to month.

“Some people dabble in online communities just to get a question answered or participate in a forum,” said Panek. “For other people, online communities are central to their lives. What we’re trying to understand is when online community life becomes central to people.”

The results of this study found that, as online discussion groups grow, participation in discussion tends to become concentrated among fewer and fewer contributors. Additionally, as groups age, it becomes harder to retain new contributors.

This data provides answers to fundamental questions about establishing and growing online communities, as well as how to keep existing group contributors active in the online community. These findings are useful for communication professionals who work in areas such as social media account management, application development, marketing, online education and organizational communication with the public online.

“Online communities are easy enough to create, but the question is, ‘Are they going to be here in six months?’ For the vast majority, the answer is no,” said Panek. “Our research suggests that the creators of online communities need to be more proactive in incentivizing and encouraging widespread participation to motivate group members to stick around and be more active in the conversation.”

In addition to Panek, the team is comprised of Connor Hollenbach, Jinjie Yang and Tyler Rhodes all of whom are undergraduate or graduate students at The University of Alabama. To read the full results of their published research titled, “The Effects of Group Size and Time on the Formation of Online Communities: Evidence From Reddit,” click here.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about the College’s research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/research.

C&IS Graduate Alumna Spotlight: Ann Salamy

Ann Salamy (pictured above with her niece, Mira) at the Amazon Community Banana Stand

Leverage your network, and hustle.”

As Amazon’s Senior Program Manager, alumna Ann Salamy (M.A., Communication Studies ’98) manages Amazon’s corporate MBA program for Europe. With her international experience in technology, financial services and higher education, Salamy has had roles ranging from a diversity specialist to program manager and has lived in New York, London, Seattle and now Luxembourg. A leader in talent management and workforce development, she traces her previous roles at UBS, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to her early days as a C&IS master’s student.
 
“I’ve taken a very non-linear career path, and I’ve loved it,” said Salamy. “At C&IS, more than anything else, I learned about the power of teamwork and relationships. Twenty years later I’m still in touch with many of my classmates, and we’ve gone on to pursue a variety of different career paths — from teaching to business to diplomatic service.”

Read below to see Salamy’s insight into her graduate work at C&IS, her current career and the lessons she’s learned along the way. 

What is your official job title?

I’m a Senior Program Manager at Amazon; specifically I manage Amazon’s corporate MBA program for Europe. The MBA program, called “Launch”, is a three-year rotational program for MBA hires. It covers six countries across Europe and offers roles in a variety of Amazon’s corporate businesses –  including Consumer, Finance, Devices, Business Development and Amazon Web Services. I’m based in Luxembourg – Amazon’s European headquarters.

Why did you choose C&IS for your graduate studies?

An influential communication studies mentor during my undergraduate studies at James Madison University encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree, and to specifically consider The University of Alabama. Once I learned more about the program, the small program size and the variety of specializations really appealed to me. During my two year program, I was a Teaching Assistant and during my second year, I also worked with the College Development Director. Additionally, UA sparked a career-long passion in diversity and women’s studies that I’ve gone on to pursue in my prior roles at UBS, LehmanBrothers, Goldman Sachs, UNC and Amazon.

What lessons from C&IS have helped you throughout your career?

More than anything else, I learned about the power of teamwork and relationships. As a small class, we really relied on each other to help with challenging coursework, to cover our teaching assistant responsibilities, and to celebrate our accomplishments. Twenty years later, I’m still in touch with many of them – we’ve gone on to pursue a variety of different career paths – from teaching to business to diplomatic service.

How can students make the best use of their graduate studies?

I encourage everyone to own your own career and understand what success means for you. I’ve taken a very non-linear career path, and I’ve loved it. After my master’s degree I worked for several years teaching and with university development/alumni affairs, and I then went to Vanderbilt for my MBA. Since receiving my MBA, I’ve worked in investment banking, higher education and technology – I’ve had roles ranging from a diversity specialist to program management, and I’ve lived in New York, London, Durham (NC), Seattle and now Luxembourg.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

It’s really the little things – the most rewarding part of my current role is when an MBA takes the time to specifically thank me for the work that I’m doing to support their careers. We work in a fast paced environment, and knowing that somebody prioritized taking the time to thank me and acknowledge my contribution means a lot.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated to get things done – my best days are those that I can look back upon and see what I delivered.

Thank you, Ann! 

Read All About It!

Journalism and Creative Media students help Oakdale Elementary students create a newspaper for their community. 

Through the C&IS course, News Design and Visualization, journalism and creative media students work with children at nearby Oakdale Elementary School to help the kids create their own community newspaper: The Oakdale Eagle.

Founded in 2011 by a small group of Oakdale Elementary personnel and UA collaborators, the Oakdale Eagle has become a schoolwide endeavor. In 2018-19, 10 children worked as Oakdale Eaglereporters in tandem with 13 University of Alabama students enrolled in JCM 320 News Design and Visualization. By the end of the academic year, they will have published four editions of the newspaper for the Oakdale community.

Oakdale Elementary is located in an economically disadvantaged area of Tuscaloosa, and a majority of its students come from low-income families.

Dr. Rebecca Britt, who teaches the class is an associate professor in the department of journalism and creative media. She tells her students it’s important to let each child’s creative spirit shine through in his or her writing.

“I had to take a back seat and know what I wanted to say wasn’t important; it was what the kids wanted to say,” says Jennifer Smith, a senior majoring in sports journalism.

Zharia Simmons, a fifth grader who has been part of the program for three years, wrote an article in Fall 2018 about Oakdale’s new fifth-grade teachers. She said her favorite part of the process was “typing up the articles and the different drafts.”

Latrina Spencer, an Oakdale Eagle faculty advisor and kindergarten teacher, says Zharia and her classmates have gained confidence through the program. “It lets them warm up to people and come out of their shells,” she says.

Britt says the relationship between the Oakdale Elementary community and the UA students is reciprocal.

The experience enhances the UA students’ communication and collaborative skills and gives them a chance to interact with the Tuscaloosa community and develop their portfolios, she says.

Oakdale Elementary recently extended its journalism program internationally by forming partnerships with schools in El Salvador and Kuwait. Melissa Kent, the library media specialist at Oakdale Elementary, says UA students and faculty have assisted throughout the expansion process.

Dr. George Daniels, assistant dean of administration for C&IS, was instrumental in establishing the UA-Oakdale partnership. Daniels coordinated a professional-development event in which Oakdale journalism-program advisors me with UA communications faculty members. He also has introduced Oakdale teachers and students to opportunities in public speaking, global communications, broadcasting, public relations and more. “He has been the guiding light to developing this program,” Kent says.

The alliance has fostered an extraordinary program for the young minds of Oakdale Elementary, Britt says, and some children continue pursuing journalism projects in middle school.

“Anytime you go out of your way to take a leadership role and help others, it benefits you,” says Mackenzie McClintock, a senior majoring in sports journalism. “It helps you grow as a person.”

To learn more about Oakdale Elementary School’s journalism program, the Oakdale Eagle, or the JCM 320 News Design and Visualization course, contact Dr. Rebecca Britt at rkbritt@ua.eduor Dr. George Daniels at gdaniels@ua.edu.


Story by Isabell Page | Photos by Jackie Sutton and Olivia Keasling

C&IS Announces New Board of Visitors Executive Committee

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) announces the 2019-2020 Board of Visitors Executive Committee. These three executive members will create vision and provide leadership for the Board.

Debra Nelson, President of Elevate Communications, LLC, will serve as chairwoman. Barry Copeland, President of The Copeland Strategies Group, LLC, and Robin DeMonia, Executive Vice President of Direct Communications, will serve as Vice Chairman and Secretary-Treasurer.

“We are humbled and excited to have such an accomplished and driven group of industry leaders on our executive committee this year,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “I have known Debra, Barry and Robin for many years and am confident they will serve our College well.”

Debra Nelson is recognized among the leading public relations and diversity and inclusion practitioners in the U.S. She has held executive positions at industries spanning media, higher education, automotive manufacturing, construction, and gaming and hospitality. Today Nelson leads Elevate Communications, LLC, a firm dedicated to delivering professional development and communication services. Her clients include large and small companies located throughout the U.S. Prior to founding Elevate, Nelson was Corporate Director and Head of Communications for Brasfield & Gorrie, a leading construction firm based in Birmingham, Alabama. Her prior executive appointment was Vice President at MGM Resorts International where she steered the diversity initiative to national prominence and helped the company increase revenue and profitability.

Barry Copeland is a retired business executive who spent most of his 42-year career in business in the Birmingham area. Today, he is president of The Copeland Strategies Group LLC, a company he founded in July of 2014 to help non-profit organizations’ boards of directors develop and implement strategic plans and targets. Copeland spent 13 years at the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), where he was a part of the senior management team that created the BBA in 2009 from a merger of the former Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Development Board.

Robin DeMonia is executive vice president of Direct Communications, a public relations firm based in Birmingham. Her previous experience includes 25 years as a journalist in Alabama, including seven years as a state government reporter and 10 years as a member of the editorial board of The Birmingham News.

About the Board of Visitors:

The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences Board of Visitors serves as an advisory group for C&IS. Our Board of Visitors are established communication professionals and industry leaders who work closely with senior administration to effect positive change in the College’s curriculum, experiential learning opportunities and advancement activities.